Farm worker handed suspended jail sentence for dangerous driving after unsecured hay bale hit cyclist in East Devon lane – leaving him with brain damage

A farm worker has been handed a suspended jail sentence for dangerous driving after a cyclist was left brain-damaged by an unsecured hay bale which fell from a trailer in East Devon.

Matthew Shapcott, aged 39, from Silverton, was convicted on Tuesday, January 12, after entering a guilty plea at Exeter Crown Court.

He was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and 140 hours of unpaid work.

Shapcott admitted dangerous driving by loading a trailer with the round bales and failing to secure them – although he had ratchet straps in his vehicle.

While driving along a road in Netherexe, near Rewe, on August 2, 2019, one of the hay bales fell from the trailer, landing on a 69-year-old man cycling along the lane.

The pensioner cyclist, who suffered a bleed on the brain and a fractured spine, was in a coma for almost a fortnight after being hit by the bale. He was left partially blind from permanent brain damage.

Police said the man will ‘never recover’ from the ‘numerous’ injuries caused by Shapcott’s failure to carry out an ‘essential safety measure’.

Shapcott’s actions that day had a ‘catastrophic impact’ on the victim, robbing him of his relaxing retirement, said officers.

Motor Patrol Constable Hamilton-Schaschke said: “This devastating incident was all entirely avoidable if Shapcott had simply secured the load.

“The victim’s quality of life and independence has been severely impaired.

“Shapcott’s lax attitude to what was a simple but essential safety measure has had a catastrophic impact upon the victim who has been robbed of what should have been a relaxing retirement.”

He added: “This incident should serve as a reminder to motorists to ensure they secure their loads, whatever it is they are transporting, wherever they are going, when travelling on public roads, so tragedies such as this are avoided.”

Devon and Cornwall Police said the 69-year-old injured man suffered a bleed on the brain and was in a coma for 13 days.

He sustained numerous other injuries including two fractures to his spine.

He will never recover from the brain damage, which has caused partial blindness.

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